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Census of Public Defender Offices (2023)

DENVER, CO - JUNE 21, 2018: Liberty and Justice for All Sign above the entrance to the Colorado State Public Defender Office in Denver
Collecting national data on state and local public defender offices
  • Client
    Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • Dates
    January 2023 - December 2025


Nationally representative data on public defender offices hasn't been gathered since 2007.

National data on public defender offices in the United States inform vitally important funding and policy decisions. But the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 2007 Census of Public Defender Offices (CPDO)—the most comprehensive data collection on public defender offices—hasn't been conducted since 2007. Findings from the survey continue to be regularly referenced despite being over 15 years old. Current information on the number of public defender offices and the work that they do is needed.


NORC and partners are redesigning the Census of Public Defender Offices and collecting a new round of data.

NORC at the University of Chicago, the Urban Institute, the National Association for Public Defense, and Dr. Andy Davies will work in partnership with BJS and a panel of public defense experts to develop and administer the second CPDO to provide updated national statistics about public defender offices and their structures, staffing, expenditures, standards and guidelines, caseloads, and training policies, among other topics.

To do this, we will complete several tasks:

  1. Compile an updated list of public defender offices.
  2. Redesign the CPDO survey questions in consultation with the CPDO Expert Panel.
  3. Test the draft CPDO survey.
  4. Ask all public defender offices in the U.S. to complete the CPDO.
  5. Analyze and report on the CPDO data.


The 2023 Census of Public Defender Offices will better inform important criminal justice funding and policy decisions.

The CPDO data will be analyzed, and a report will be made publicly available. De-identified CPDO data will be made publicly available on the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

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